We wrote the other day about Facebook’s new policy of giving people over 50 genders to choose from when filling out their profile on the social media service.
Facebook’s gender choices now include the traditional (male and female); a nod to the modern era (transgender, intersex); and several that were new to many folks (androgyne, bigender, and neutrois).
Well, Stephen Colbert took the topic on last night, and I have to say, he was quite brutal. And while that’s Colbert’s schtick, to be the crazy O’Reilly Republican, there was no silver lining to his attack on Facebook’s new gender policy – he was mocking it, and the audience was laughing at the “absurdity” of the policy as presented by Colbert.
A lead trans activist, however, thought the segment rocked:
This is the same trans activist who severely criticized CNN’s Piers Morgan a few weeks ago for basically doing a softball pro-trans interview, but getting some of the finer points of being transgender incorrect, such as not being aware that some trans people believe that at least some babies aren’t born with any gender at all.
And while I have little desire to revisit the Piers Morgan issue, as these topics tend to always devolve into a hate-fest among different factions of the left (and let’s not even talk about the right), I’m having a difficult time understanding how Colbert’s segment on Facebook was anything but nasty. It mocked this new concept of gender, generally, and trans people in particular.
And while folks can claim that this is what Colbert does, there was no silver lining to many of the jokes. You don’t walk away feeling like Colbert secretly skewered people who oppose this new multi-gendered policy (though parts of the segment were pro-trans as well). Rather, you laugh hysterically at the alleged “absurdity” of the policy itself. (The real “fun” starts about 50 seconds into the video, when Colbert basically mocks various trans identities.)
Which gets to my larger point, that it’s rather difficult to understand how to address this topic without offending someone, as the definition of what is right and what is wrong seems somewhat imprecise at best, and inscrutable at worst. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to understand the issue. It does, however, mean that critics aren’t helping their cause by exercising selective ire.